The mysterious spirituality of hashbrowns

I’ve been thinking over the past several days about my first years at Reinhardt. You know, those years back when the campus seemed a lot smaller (it was), when there was that old wooden Ken White Student Center, and I began to wonder what some of the things were that made Wednesday nights in those years particularly special for me. Real Deal right now is pretty sucessful, even in comparison. But there was something different to those Wednesday nights of three or four years ago.

Perhaps it was Joe always serving up a cup of coffee (and advice that I needed but didn’t know I needed) at Jacob’s Well just before Real Deal started. The smell of coffee would permeate the whole building. Soothing. Heart-warming. Mind-opening.

Perhaps it was the prayer circle. We gathered upstairs or on the porch. And I can hear Sarah or Caleb or any number of voices lifting up each others’ concerns and lifting up the gathering, that souls and hearts would be touched in the name of Christ. There might be five of us in the prayer circle, there might be fifteen… but it was always an encouragement to know that not just the band (who had their own moment of prayer), but a host people had agreed together and lifted up that night to the Lord. Then again…

Perhaps it was manually changing the lyrics on the overhead projector once it did start. Sometimes a tedious job, but it somehow made this shy lowerclassman feel like he belonged on the occasion when I was asked to do it. We were quite low-tech. The sound equipment itself was at least five years old. Jason was not only the drummer, he also ran the sound board. Everyone did their part and it somehow always came together. It was a motley crew of ragamuffin servants, but it worked. Then again…

Perhaps the special, spiritual element that I miss is the hashbrowns. Yes, the hashbrowns. That most unlikely communion bread that brought together the body of Christ in fellowship in the Wednesday late nights. Real Deal didn’t really end with the band dishing out a rendition of “I Would Walk 500 Miles” as we swung the couches and cushiony chairs back to their squares in various places in the room… even though it might have seemed that way to the observer. If at all possible, some of us, sometimes quite a few, sometimes a handful, would proceed to the Waffle House after the service. Perhaps that’s when church really began.

The Waffle House. Always warm, always inviting. That shining diner on a hill. I can see me, Caleb, Mark, Andrew, and perhaps Brian, Susan, Joe, Cody, Andi, Anna, Sarah, Amber, Matt, Danielle, or any host of others gathered in that magic place after Real Deal. The cast occasionally changed, but the nightly bond, the fellowship, was constant. Jason (the cook, not the drummer) would serve up his somehow magically perfect hashbrowns (I have yet to find his equal in the hashbrown department), and we would sit around and talk – normally for hours. Often, our waitress and Jason might even converse with us a bit. We weren’t troublemakers… we were regulars, and I think they really liked us. We might be at Waffle House at 1:00 in the morning. I might be on my third or fourth refill of cherry Sprite, my texas cheesesteak long departed. But this was a special time. It was that needed break in the week. Real Deal was over. Classes were long out-of-mind. This, the friends, the food, the hashbrowns, was the here and now.

The conversation always varied. The upperclassmen could always advise us younger ones on the ways of Reinhardt, on classes and people and places and things, on life, and tell us about the way Reinhardt was when they first started. We might talk about various subject, religion, politics, relationships, personal philosophy, or the very marvel of Waffle House food. Waffle House was a great leveler.

Of course, Waffle House is always a great leveler. Possible one of the greatest examples I’ve seen. At any point in the day, you will find people in the Waffle House of every walk of life. Truckers and businessmen. College students and high-school dropouts. The urban annd the country. A world of lifestyles and philosophies all wrapped in one large tacky yellow box.

I’m reminded of how Luke describes to us the early church in Acts chapter 2, shortly after Pentecost. How the people of the church would not only meet in the temple, but in homes, and they would gather together and share meals together. And the people in society saw these people, their fellowship, their love, and their way of life, and they gained favor. These people were noticably different. Their bond, which was Christ, was real and they expressed it in their actions towards others and each other. I’d like to think that those nights at Waffle House we touched on a bit of the Communion of the Saints that those first believers had. Maybe it’s a romantic idea… maybe time has biased my memory… or maybe there was a bit of Christ in the hashbrowns that night.